What is a drone licence?
While technically not a licence, permission is still required to use a drone for reasons of profit and business.
This permission is known as PfCO (Permissions for Commercial Operations) and is required to operate a drone safely in UK airspace for business and profit reasons.
An PfCO is granted through partaking in a CAA drone training course from a CAA approved trainer. Once you’ve partaken in the training, you will then need to complete both a practical and theory test to be granted your ‘license’.
During the course you will have to demonstrate to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that you are capable of operating a drone according to PfCO safety standards.
This includes compilation of an operations manual and providing evidence of pilot competency This is broken into three critical elements:
Adequate theoretical knowledge / general airmanship.
Successful completion of a practical flight assessment on the class of SUA that is being applied for.
A minimum amount of recent flying experience on the class of SUA that is being applied for.
What is a PfCO?
A Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO) is the legal document you need to operate a drone commercially in UK airspace. While not officially certified as a licence, the PfCO acts as the legal requirement needed to operate a drone for profit or for business purposes. Until August 2016 this was known as a Permission for Aerial Work (PFAW).
Permissions from the CAA are valid for up to 12 months and are subject to an annual renewal.
This enables a person to conduct commercial operations with a small unmanned aircraft (drone) and also permits drones weighing 20kg or less to be operated within a congested area.
This covers all other types of flight and addresses operations that contain a greater element of operating risk.
Commercial Pilot Insurance
In the UK, it is a legal requirement that commercial drone pilots are insured with EC785/2004 complaint insurance at the time of flight. This means that the absolute minimum requirement is about £1,000,000 public liability. To operate in some environments, you might require up to £10,000,000.
How to apply for a Drone Licence
Once you have passed the relevant drone training only then will you be able to seek permission from the Civil Aviation Authority.
To obtain permission you must process an application. This can be done via the Official CAA Website.
During the application process the following information will be required:
National Qualified Entity (NQE) full recommendation or equivalent qualification